For Grades K-4 , week of Nov. 23, 2020

1. Holiday Surprise

The holidays are full of surprises, but none was bigger than what happened with the giant Christmas tree delivered to Rockefeller Center in New York City. Or rather, none was smaller. When workers were setting up the 75-foot tree delivered from upstate New York, they discovered a tiny owl was clinging to its branches. It had been there for days as the tree made its way to the city, trapped when the tree’s branches had been tied up. At first workers thought it was a baby, but a call to a wildlife center put that idea to rest, since most owls hatch in the spring. When Ellen Kalish of the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center saw the bird, she immediately knew it was a northern saw-whet, a type of owl that only grows to about 5 inches tall as an adult. “I thought it was such a heartwarming Christmas story, that there was this secret in the Christmas tree,” Kalish told the New York Post newspaper. The saw-whet was taken to the wildlife center and released after it was checked out. Surprises often are in the news. Some are unfortunate surprises, but many are good. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a good surprise that affected someone. Use what you read to write a paragraph or personal column telling how the person reacted to the surprise and how you might have reacted if you had experienced it. Finish by writing a paragraph telling how you reacted to a good surprise that happened to you.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

2. Virtual Pro Bowl

The National Football League has had to make a lot of changes this year due to safety concerns about the coronavirus epidemic. Now pro football is making what may be its biggest change yet. Instead of holding a live Pro Bowl all-star game, the league will turn the game into a Madden NFL 21 video game. Fans, players and coaches still will get to vote who deserves to be an all-star, but the game will be played virtually online. In addition, in the week leading up to the Pro Bowl, Madden NFL 21 will team up with the NFL to present a series of matchups featuring celebrities, NFL legends and current players. Voting for players for the Pro Bowl will continue through December 17 on Madden NFL 21’s mobile and console versions, on and on the Twitter social media platform. One-third of the vote used to determine this year's Pro Bowlers will come from the fans, one-third from players and one-third from the league's coaches. A total of 88 players will be selected, 44 each from the NFC and AFC divisions. The decision to turn the Pro Bowl into a video game was made to keep fans and players safe during the coronavirus epidemic. What other activities could be turned into video games that would be fun to play? With a partner, use the newspaper or Internet to find and study a story or photo of an activity people like to do. Brainstorm a way to turn this activity into a video game. Give your game a fun name and write a paragraph describing how it might be played.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Beautiful Rocks

Several years ago, pet rocks became hugely popular across America as toys or odd gifts. This fall painted rocks are getting wide attention in the state of Texas and the rest of the nation. Their popularity can be traced to two families in the city of Grapevine, who joined forces to decorate a nature trail with colorful rocks painted with images ranging from animals to heroes to cartoon characters. The first rocks were painted by Ron Olsen and his three grown children in March as a community project they could do during the early months of the coronavirus epidemic. After seeing them, Chris Penny and his two pre-teen daughters decided they also wanted to paint rocks to dress up the nature trail in Parr Park. After painting several dozen rocks with his daughters, and buying dozens more online, Penny posted about the project on Facebook and asked if anyone would like to contribute, the Washington Post newspaper reported. He offered to pay the postage for sending them, and the rocks started pouring in from all over the country. The total now tops 4,000, and the trail has been nicknamed the Parr Park Rock Art Trail. “I’m delighted that it’s brought so much joy to people,” Olsen said. Art can bring joy to people in many situations. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone who could use a little joy in their life. Use what you read to create an artwork that would be joyous or uplifting to this person. Write a note to the person expressing how you hope they enjoy the artwork. Send your art and note to the person, if you like.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

4. ‘Monster Wolves’

Robots are being used to help people in more and more ways. In the Asian nation of Japan, they are now being used to scare away wild bears! The city of Takikawa installed two mechanical “Monster Wolves” to deal with brown bears that were searching for food in neighborhoods where people live. The Monster Wolves have fake fur, sharp fangs and flashing red eyes, and make howling or screeching sounds when their motion detectors are triggered, the New York Times newspaper reported. Their sounds are so loud they can be heard a kilometer away (more than six-tenths of a mile). “We want to let the bears know, ‘Human settlements aren’t where you live,’” said the head of the company that made the wolves. Robots are being used in more and more ways to perform tasks for people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one new use for robots. Use what you read to write a short editorial telling how this robot is being used and how it could be a model for other uses of robots. Discuss with family or friends.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

5. Iceberg Collision

Global warming has had great impact on habitats around the world. In the southern Atlantic Ocean, a giant iceberg that broke off from the continent of Antarctica due to warming is on course to run aground on an island and endanger millions of seals and seabirds. The iceberg, named A68a, is about the size of the state of Delaware with an area of about 1,800 square miles. It broke off from the Larsen C ice shelf in July 2017 and is one of the largest icebergs in the world. It is now heading for the British island territory of South Georgia and could reach shore in a matter of weeks if it follows a direct course. If it hits the island, scientists fear it could disrupt the breeding habits of seals and penguins, which breed on land but have to have access to the ocean to find food for their offspring. South Georgia has one of the largest colonies of penguins and seals in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Global warming is having great effects on the environment all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one effect. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, telling why this effect is important and what can be done about it.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.